CLEVELAND MONSTERS (23-25-2-2) AT CHICAGO WOLVES (24-22-3-2)
RARE ENCOUNTER WITH MONSTERS
After playing 30 consecutive games against Central Division foes, the Chicago Wolves step out of divisional action today to face the Cleveland Monsters. They’re the only Northern Division team with a sub-.500 record and come to Allstate Arena after losing 4-2 Friday night at Grand Rapids and 4-1 Saturday night at Rockford.
The last time the Wolves and Monsters met, rookie goaltender Veini Vehvilainen stopped 16 shots as the Monsters earned a 3-0 win Nov. 22 in Cleveland. That pushed the Monsters’ record to 10-7-1-1 and dropped the Wolves to 8-12-1-0. Thereford, the Wolves have gone 16-10-2-2 (.600) while the Monsters have posted a 13-18-1-1 mark (.424).
To be fair, the Monsters are missing six players who contributed to Cleveland’s two-game sweep of the Wolves on Nov. 21-22 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. Forwards Nathan Gerbe, Jakob Lilja and Kevin Stenlund, defensemen Gabriel Carlsson and Andrew Peeke and goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks have been helping the NHL’s injury-riddled Columbus Blue Jackets make a run into playoff contention. They recently won 13 out of 16 games before dropping their last four.
The Wolves are a little different, too, than the previous encounters with the Monsters. Forward Valentin Zykov had yet to join the squad, forward Brandon Pirri was just regaining his legs after being loaned by Vegas and defenseman Nic Hague was with the Golden Knights.
\For the last six weeks, the Chicago Wolves have been no worse than tied for third in the Central Division. But after dropping a 5-2 decision to Grand Rapids Saturday night at Allstate Arena, the Wolves have dropped into a share of fourth place.
When you go by points — as hockey has done forever — the Grand Rapids Griffins (55 points) hold third place ahead of the Wolves (53 points) and the Rockford IceHogs (53 points). But if points percentage is your thing, the Wolves (.520) still hold a slight edge over the Griffins (.519) and IceHogs (.500) for third because they’ve played two fewer games.
Essentially, the Central Division has been split into two tiers. The Milwaukee Admirals (.721) and Iowa Wild (.660) boast two of the top three points percentages in the AHL and their goal differentials are +55 and +22, respectively. The other six teams all have at least a minus-14 goal differential.
To put it another way, there’s a 15-point distance between second-place Iowa and third-place Grand Rapids. There’s just a nine-point difference between third-place Grand Rapids and eighth-place Manitoba.
WE ARE THE WOLVES
Goaltender Oscar Dansk owns 58 wins in a Wolves uniform, which ranks fifth on the organization’s all-time list.
Moving into the top five is no small accomplishment as Dansk now belongs in a pantheon with Wendell Young (169 wins), Matt Climie (70), Kari Lehtonen (61) and Jordan Binnington (59).
Young, in his second decade as Wolves general manager, won a pair of Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Climie didn’t retire until he was 36 years old as he played all over the world — including earning two wins with the Dallas Stars in 2008-09.
Speaking of the Stars, Lehtonen played the last nine of his NHL seasons with them. He posted 310 wins in his career.
And Binnington? He might have accomplished something remarkable last year for St. Louis.
LAST TWO GAMES
- Veteran forwards Matthew Ford and Givani Smith scored two goals apiece as Grand Rapids erased an early 1-0 Wolves lead to claim the win at Allstate Arena.
- Center Jake Leschyshyn and defenseman Jake Bischoff scored for the Wolves, who were outshot 28-19.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 23 saves.
- Trailing 2-0 in the third period, the Wolves scored on their final five shots to rally for the win over a Milwaukee team that owns the best record and the best defense in the AHL.
- Forwards Gage Quinney, Valentin Zykov, Cody Glass and Tye McGinn and defenseman Dylan Coghlan scored for the Wolves while Lucas Elvenes handed out two assists.
- Goaltender Oscar Dansk posted 15 saves.
BY THE NUMBERS
2: Goaltender Oscar Dansk has suffered just two regulation losses since Nov. 29. Alas, one of those came Saturday night against Grand Rapids. Prior to this blip, Dansk had produced a 14-1-2 record with a 1.64 goals-against average, a .939 save percentage and 2 shutouts. He had allowed more than two goals in a game just twice — and those were occasions when he gave up three tallies. Dansk has started the Wolves’ last five games — including two in the last three days — so he might have earned a day of rest today.
3: Forward Lucas Elvenes ranks third among all AHL rookies with 42 points. Elvenes earned his 42nd point Saturday night when he led a 2-on-1 rush that ended with a perfect dish to Jake Leschyshyn for the game’s first goal. Elvenes owns 11 goals and 31 assists to lead the Wolves in scoring and share 13th place overall in the AHL with former Wolves MVP Daniel Carr and Stockton’s Glenn Gawdin. Elvenes’ assist total ranks second among rookies and shares eighth among all players.
5: Wolves head coach Rocky Thompson has been able to write five players into the lineup for all 51 games this season: Forwards Patrick Brown, Lucas Elvenes, Jake Leschyshyn, Tye McGinn and Curtis McKenzie. Last year, the Wolves had just three players make it through the first 51 games unscathed: Keegan Kolesar, Brooks Macek and McKenzie. On the blue line, Dylan Coghlan, Jaycob Megna and Jimmy Schuldt have played 50 games apiece.
15: Veteran forward Tye McGinn has scored five goals in the last six games to take over the team lead in goals with 15. It’s the 29-year-old McGinn’s highest goal total since he piled up a career-high-tying 20 tallies for the Syracuse Crunch in 2015-16. If he maintains his goal-scoring pace the rest of the way and remains healthy, he’ll finish with 22 goals during the regular season. The lowest total for a Wolves’ single-season leader happened in 2012-13, when Brett Sterling posted 24 goals in 48 games.
17: The Wolves limited the Milwaukee Admirals to 17 shots Thursday night — the fewest by a Chicago foe this season. It also marked the fourth time in the last eight games the Wolves have surrendered 20 shots or fewer. Weirdly, the Wolves are only 2-2-0-0 in those games despite averaging 12.5 more shots per game than their opponents.
25: At 1:30 a.m. Central time Sunday, the Vegas Golden Knights assigned center Nicolas Roy to the Wolves. It marked the 25th time since Oct. 1 that Roy has been moved between the Wolves and the Golden Knights — and the 10th time since Jan. 1. Center Cody Glass headed back to Vegas Friday afternoon after just one game with the Wolves. The 20-year-old contributed one goal and one assist Thursday against Milwaukee in his first game since suffering a lower-body injury on Jan. 4 with Vegas.
372: When forward Keegan Kolesar made his NHL debut with the Vegas Golden Knights on Jan. 11, he became the 372nd player in Wolves history to put NHL experience on his resume. Forward Cam Maclise’s Wolves debut on Jan. 19 vs. Rockford made him the 646th player to don the Wolves uniform since the franchise was founded in 1994, which means 57.6 percent of all Wolves have appeared in the NHL. That percentage is even higher among goaltenders as 40 of the team’s 57 goaltenders over the years (70.2 percent) can say they’ve played in the NHL.
|Thursday, Feb. 20||vs. Grand Rapids||Allstate Arena||11 a.m.||Tickets|
|Friday, Feb. 21||at Milwaukee||Panther Arena||7 p.m.||My50|
|Sunday, Feb. 23||vs. Rockford||Allstate Arena||3 p.m.||Tickets|